On one hand, it’s a little terrifying when Hollywood decides to adapt a book that you love. You know they’re going to change shit. You know they’re going to switch things all around, and even if you can understand the reason they’re doing it, a part of you is just dying inside, going, But . . . but . . . that’s not the way it happens at ALL!
On the other hand, I sometimes feel like Hollywood is making a movie off of Oprah’s Book List every three months, and in between The Help, Eat Pray and Love, and the latest Nicholas Sparks film to come out, I find myself wishing that Hollywood would adapt a book I actually liked, for once.
And so I made a list.
10 Books That I Would Like To See (Good) Film Adaptations Of
Disclaimer: I tried not to pick too many books that I already knew were in development (The Giver, for example) but if a project’s really not very far along—like, the studio’s only announced the plan to make an adaptation—you may see the book here.
1. Sunset and Sawdust – Joe R. Lansdale
Plot Summary: It’s the 1930’s in East Texas. Sunset Jones is married to the local constable, who also happens to be an abusive scumbag. When he tries to rape her, she kills him, and ends up getting the job of constable herself. No one expects her to do well, but Sunset will have to prove them wrong when she is immediately thrust into solving the murder of a woman and a baby who are found covered in oil.
Why I Want To See It: Because I can count the number of westerns with female protagonists on one hand. And I’m including The Quick and the Dead. And Bad Girls. No one wants to include Bad Girls. Sunset and Sawdust is a straight-forward, funny, and often brutally violent novel that wants absolutely nothing to do with camp. Normally, I’m all for camp, but not in this story. Sunset Jones is an awesome, kickass heroine, and I’d love to see her come to life on the big screen.
Concerns: Casting and tone. You need a believable badass, not someone who poses sexy, holds a gun, and occasionally pouts at something. I have no interest in seeing Sunset Jones turned into a joke.
Casting Possibilities: Amy Adams is an obvious choice because of the red hair. Also, she’s a really good actress. I’d like to see her in something a little different. Other possibilities . . . well, it’s kind of typecasting, I’d expect, but Joelle Carter from Justified could definitely play this role.
2. Lamb – Christopher Moore
Plot Summary: Pretty much what it says on the tin: it’s a retelling of Jesus Christ’s life from the point of view of his best friend, Biff.
Why I Want To See It: To see those scary religious people with their tacky signs and sandwich boards completely lose their shit. And also, because Lamb is a really good novel. It’s not just outrageous and hilarious and absurd—it is all those things, but it’s also surprisingly sad, lovely, and affecting. There’s a real relationship between Biff and Joshua (Jesus). Maggie’s pretty awesome too.
Concerns: Other than it actually getting made in a country that has a meltdown every December about Merry Christmas vs Happy Holidays vs Who Gives a Flying Fuck? Tone, mostly. I don’t want this to be a mindless parody that only focuses on the crazy stuff. Lamb actually has something to say. Let’s not have Will Ferrell as Jesus and, I don’t know, Jonah Hill as Biff, okay?
Casting Possibilities: I’m honestly not sure. It’s been awhile since I reread Lamb. Maybe I’ll get back to you on that.
3. The Last Vampire – Christopher Pike
Plot Summary: Sita is a 5,000 year old vampire. A PI starts following her around, trying to blackmail her. Naturally, she kills him. But she doesn’t know who hired him, so she pretends to be a high school student to get close to the PI’s son, Ray. And then, of course, she starts to develop feelings for Ray.
Why I Want To See It: Because there’s a way to do young adult vampire stories, and this is the way to do it. After Twilight, there’s been a backlash against sexy vampires instead of scary ones (assuming you think glitter is sexy), but there’s really no reason you can’t have both sexy and scary vampires. Also, you don’t see a lot of girl vampires in these type of stories. Let the human innocent be a guy, for once.
Concerns: There’s a lot of Hindu mythology in The Last Vampire, and while it’s interesting, I’m worried about how it will translate to a movie. You can’t just cut it out—it’s important to the storyline, particularly the villain—but I’m not entirely sure how well Krishna’s going to sell.
Casting Possibilities: Tricky. I don’t know a lot of actresses in the right age range. Jennifer Lawrence, maybe?
4. The Child Thief – Brom
Plot Summary: A modern and very dark retelling of Peter Pan. Nick is a teenage runaway in New York who is tricked by Peter into following him into Neverland. Once there, Nick must survive his initiation into Peter’s tribe of stolen and bloodthirsty children, only to be drafted into a war to save the dying land.
Why I Want To See It: Because I’m all about dark retellings of fairy tales and children’s stories, and this is about as dark as it gets. The Child Thief is so layered and gorgeous and violent and sad. You get a really interesting look at all the complexities of Peter Pan. Plus, the artwork in this novel is stunning. It would make for a beautiful film.
Concerns: The studio might get nervous and tone down the brutality and/or just change the entire ending. The Child Thief isn’t exactly what I’d call an uplifting book, but you can’t just slap a happily ever after on it without ruining everything that came before it. I cannot stress this enough: this story is NOT meant for children.
Casting Possibilities: No idea, but I’d give my left arm to see Guillermo del Toro direct it.
5. Night of the Living Trekkies – Keith David Anderson and Sam Stall
Plot Summary: Zombies attack a Star Trek convention. Jim Pike and various other Trekkies try to make it out alive.
Why I Want To See It: Are you kidding me? Why wouldn’t I want to see it? Trekkies fighting zombies with replica bat’leths? It’d be like I died and went to heaven. Seriously, we did well with Scott Pilgrim vs The World (a movie about geeks for geeks by geeks) but if you think that’s enough to satisfy me . . . well, you don’t know me that well. I would love to see this movie. I’d be first in line at the midnight showing.
Concerns: That somebody would try to mainstream it and tone down the Trek humor. Because, clearly, all the women who went to see, say, Eat Pray Love would totally go see this movie, if only we took out a few more of those references to the Borg, or you know, just stop mentioning TOS entirely.
Casting Possibilities: Character development isn’t exactly this novel’s strongest feature, so you can get almost any awesome actor and just watch them outshine the page. Chris Evans has quite the geek resume. I’m arbitrarily casting him as Jim. Oh, and clearly, this should be directed by Edgar Wright.
6. Dealing With Dragons – Patricia C. Wrede
Plot Synopsis: Princess Cimorene likes doing things that aren’t done. Sword-fighting, for instance. Learning magic. Cooking cherries jubilee. But the only thing she’s supposed to do is look pretty and marry the dim Prince Therandil. So Cimorene runs away and ends up dealing with dragons, instead.
Why I Want To See It: Because it’s a favorite story of mine from childhood, and it would make a nice fit with the fairy tale craze coming to a theater near you this 2012. Cimorene is a strong, likable heroine, and there is a good supporting cast of characters: Kazul, Morwen, Alianora, and of course, Therandil. It would also be nice to see a live-action film do a light-hearted, funny take on fairy tales. Normally, this kind of thing would scream Pixar, but I’d really like to see Dealing With Dragons as a live-action, for some reason.
Concerns: Mostly that the dragons would be terrible CGI instead of Jim Henson puppets, the way God intended.
Casting Possibilities: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, maybe? I feel like I nominate her a lot, but I think she could do it, and I can’t think of anyone else offhand. I’d say Keira Knightley as a possibility, but I suspect that she might be done with less-serious fantasy movies like this. And I kind of want James Marsden as Therandil, but he already did that role for Enchanted. Dammit.
7. Hero – Perry Moore
Plot Summary: Thom Creed is a teenager hiding two secrets from his father: he has superpowers, and he’s gay. He secretly joins The League, an organization of superheroes, and meets up with a few other superpowered misfits. But when Thom realizes there’s a conspiracy in The League, it will be up to him and his new friends to stop it.
Why I Want To See It: Because it was a fun, easy read that I finished in a day, and because it does a good job discussing coming out without seeming overly preachy. Thom’s a likable hero—despite his incessant knack for putting his foot straight in his mouth—and I like that while the book is mostly positive, it doesn’t have a complete bow-tie (that is, unrealistically happy) ending. Also, it’d be nice to see a superhero movie that wasn’t adapted from a graphic novel series.
Concerns: How Thom is written and portrayed. The fact that he’s gay is, of course, incredibly important to both the character and the story, but that shouldn’t suggest that it’s also his only defining character trait.
Casting Possibilities: I know I’m probably not supposed to pick Chris Colfer because he’s such an obvious choice, but . . . well, he’s a really good actor. I’ve completely given up on Glee for several different reasons, but he was easily one of my favorite things about it when I did watch the show. So he’s a possibility.
8. Patient Zero – Jonathan Maberry
Plot Summary: Joe Ledger is a detective who’s recruited to lead a special government task force when he has to kill a guy he already killed earlier that week. And it’s a good thing, too, because a terrorist cell is about to strike with a biological weapon that turns people into zombies.
Why I Want To See It: Because what you rarely see in zombie films is a competent police force. Oh, sure, there might be one badass cop who’s managed to make it out alive, but a zombie attack almost always spells out apocalypse. Patient Zero—along with Maberry’s non-fiction book: Zombies CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead—is the rare argument that the zombie apocalypse is actually preventable. Besides, it’s just a kickass action story.
CONCERNS: The book switches back and forth between the good guys and the bad guys. (That is, the terrorists, not the zombies.) I’m not certain if this would work well in the film or not—although cutting them out entirely would eliminate Toys, and that would be sad.
CASTING CHOICES: I’m not sure, but I can tell you some action stars I don’t want. Sam Worthington, for instance. Or Mark Wahlberg.
9. Boneshaker – Cherie Priest
Plot Summary: It’s the late 1800’s. Leviticus Blue is blamed for his invention that destroys Seattle and poisons the air so that anyone who breathes it will become a zombie. Years later, his son, Zeke, sneaks over the wall into Seattle to clear his father’s name. His mother, Briar, has to find an airship to fly her in so she can go and rescue her son.
Why I Want To See It: Because I want a full-blown steampunk movie. Oh sure, Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies have aspects of steampunk, but I want it all: zeppelins, zombies, pirates, gas masks, petticoats, etc. I want an unabashed steampunk story to make it to the cinema, and as far as unabashed steampunk stories goes, Boneshaker is a pretty good one.
Concerns: That I’ll just get aspects. Like I’ll get the zombies but lose the airship, or that the story will take place in the past but tweak it so it’s not so obviously an alternate reality. Maybe they’d move it to Roanoke in the 1500’s or something. I don’t know. You’d think all those revisions would be a lot more trouble than they’d be worth.
Casting Possibilities: I’m not sure. Again, it’s been awhile since I’ve read this one—so many of the books I’ve read recently have been too disappointing to try and adapt—and I don’t have a clear picture of Briar anymore, other than the fact that she’s a strong woman. (Is my liking for strong female protagonists too obvious? Oh well.) So I’m just going to tentatively suggest Paget Brewster from Criminal Minds right now because she can play a strong woman and I’d like to see her in more things.
10. The Bottoms – Joe R. Lansdale
Plot Summary: It’s 1930’s East Texas. Thirteen-year old Harry and his little sister discover the body of a mutilated black woman and tell their father, Jacob (who’s also the constable and also the barber). Jacob tries to solve the murder, but no one’s very interested until a white woman is also found murdered. Then all hell breaks loose.
Why I Want To See It: I honestly don’t understand how this book hasn’t been made into a movie yet. It has Oscar nominee all over it. It takes place during the Depression. It’s a coming of age story. It’s a mystery. It deals with racism. I can actually see the landscape in my head, and it’s such a well-written story. There’s a reason Joe R. Lansdale is on this list twice. His work is so straight-forward, so American and lovely and unflinching.
Concerns: Only that the director wouldn’t treat the material with the respect that it deserves.
Casting Possibilities: I’m not quite sure for Harry. Maybe Kodi Smit-McPhee? Jacob could be played by a few different actors . . . offhand, I kind of like Viggo Mortensen. And as far as directing goes, Frank Darabont’s a possibility, but I’ll tell you the person I’d really like to see is Clint Eastwood.
That’s it for now. Maybe I’ll come back with a “And 10 More Books to Adapt” list after I read some better novels.